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European Electric Car Sales Struggle For Life

Bollore Bluecar Big In France

In America, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are battling to win the electric car stakes. In Europe, the battery-only Leaf and the Opel-Vauxhall Ampera (an extended range electric Volt with a different badge) are the big name contenders, but they have been eclipsed by the battery-only Bollore Bluecar.

“The battery-only what?”, I hear you say. The Bollore Bluecar might look dumpy and weird but it has an impressive sounding heritage.  Bluecar has three doors and was conceived by storied Italian designer Pininfarina. The Bluecar will be found mainly in Paris, France, where it is being deployed as part of a car-sharing programme. The Bluecar has a 30 kWh battery, said to give it a range of 160 miles and a maximum speed of 80 mph. To rent a Bluecar, you join a club, and book its use over the internet. You pick up the car at designated parking points, and rent by the hour. Car2Go in Austin, Texas, offers Smart cars. Mint does the same thing in New York City and Boston also with gasoline cars.

According to statistics from British newsletter Automotive Industry Data (AID), France was by far the “biggest” market for electric cars in Europe in the first quarter. Sales in France totaled 1,200, with Bluecars accounting for 704. Germany, Europe’s biggest car market, only accounted for 694 cars in the first quarter. But France has big subsidies for electric cars, Germany doesn’t.

GM Europe sold 428 Opel-Amperas in Holland in the quarter, with a deal probably through a fleet buying company, AID said. In the quarter, West European sales of electric vehicles hit 4,867, for a market share of 0.15 per cent.  There no comparison figures because electric car sales are on the first rung of the ladder.

Other electric vehicles on sale in the quarter included the Mitsubishi MiEV citicar, and its rebadged clones, the Peugeot iON and Citroen C-Zero. Renault is currently selling the Fluence sedan and Kangoo van, and later this year will launch the smaller Cloe and Twizy commuter vehicle.

AID editor Peter Schmidt said sales of electric vehicles are tepid to say the least, while buyers await new technology that could halve the price and double or triple the range.

“That could be at least a decade ahead in what is now seen as an increasingly hazy future, dogged not only by cash-strapped governments, but a period where earlier accepted future energy scenarios are once against under scrutiny, thanks to a rethink on nuclear power and sudden abundance of global natural gas reserves,” Schmidt said.

Neil Winton – May 15, 2012  

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